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  • Writer's pictureRobert Stevenson

Why Do We Have That Rule?

Robert Stevenson Blog - Culture of Fear

If you are not really certain why a rule is in place or a procedure is being followed, then it’s time to get the answer or change what you are doing. Always remember … doing what you’ve always done may NOW be wrong.

Here is a great example as to WHY we need to know WHY.

A delegation of artillery officers from NATO, were visiting their British allies. The foreign officers were treated to an incredible display of motorized artillery in action by the Brits. After all the explosions and recoiling of the guns had died down, a rather confused NATO officer approached one of the British officers and asked why one of the soldiers in each of the artillery teams stood at attention throughout the entire demonstration doing absolutely nothing.

“Why?” the British officer responded. “That is team member number 6. He always stands at attention when the gun is in action.” The NATO officer then responded. “If that is the case, why do you need six men on each of the gun teams? Wouldn’t five be enough?”

There was no immediate answer from the Brits. Later on, curiosity getting the best of them, they decided to find out. After hours and hours of research looking through volumes of military field manuals dating back decades, they finally came upon their answer. The original job of gun team member 6 was to hold the horses’ reins that had pulled the gun into position. Just how many years (decades) had passed since they no longer used horses to pull the large artillery guns around? Why had they made NO CHANGE?

The problem with many companies or managers is that they have created an environment where challenges by subordinates are not looked upon in a positive manner. In fact, they are considered as challenges to authority rather than an effort to try and make the company stronger. Some managers / bosses / CEOs have instilled such an environment of fear that they seldom, if ever, have anyone question their ideas, policies, procedures, or methods. If no one is disagreeing, adding their two cents, or giving any “real” input at your meetings, you are just wasting time and don’t need to have a meeting. You also won’t be in business long either, if that’s the way you run your company.

That being the case, many subordinates sit on the sideline, seldom sharing their opinions and certainly never challenging anything the boss suggests or implements. If you are not listening to your employees about their ideas or suggestions, you are limiting your growth opportunities and profits. The employees on the front lines have a wealth of information that needs to be shared and great leaders make it simple for them to do just that. If no one is sharing their ideas or suggestions, here are a few questions you could ask to get them to open up. (Having them write their responses anonymously might also help)

  • What is it that we do best/worst?

  • What is the dumbest thing we do around here?

  • In your opinion, where are we below average, failing, or need to improve?

  • What is the most important thing we should concentrate on to be successful?

  • What things/procedures/policies do we have that you think are unnecessary?

  • What suggestions do you have that could make us more profitable/efficient/better?

  • If you could change one thing about our company to make us better, what would it be?

Leaders who have an open line of communication with employees have a greater chance for higher profits, more efficiency, great camaraderie, higher employee retention rate, better morale and less stress; who wouldn’t want those?


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